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ClarkWGriswold

Current UI problems and brainstorming fixes.

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I really enjoy CMBN. I spend more time playing it than all my other games combined. However, I still find myself incredibly frustrated by the lack of situational awareness and the how cumbersome the game is, in general. Both of my regular PBEM opponents feel the same way, and the other day we got to talking about the problems. I thought this might be a good thread for discussing the issues that people have and ideas about how to fix them.

I know that these suggestions probably won't make it into the game in the near term, but perhaps some ideas could and, at the very least, it could give BFC ideas about the most frustrating aspects and potential fixes.

Here's an example screenshot that should illustrate the gripes I have with the current system:

Screen%252520shot%2525202011-10-15%252520at%252520October%25252015%25252C%2525202.44.54%252520PM.jpg

You can see about 80% of my forces on the screen. Even so, you really can't tell much of anything about them. I have one squad that has been totally wiped out, one HQ that has been wiped out, one squad that is rattled, and one squad that is half rattled and half broken (split squad). Most of my squads have been split, but you can't tell that because the icons are the same for a 9 man squad as they are for a 2 man scout split squad. I have two mortars, but one of them is out of HE shells. I have three tanks, but one of them is out of HE shells. One of my mortars is not deployed. One of my Marders is out of HE shells. Of all of my forces, only two vehicles and one mortar squad are in C2.

There is absolutely NO on-screen indication of ANY of these factors. NONE! The only way to know any of this information is to keep a very close eye on every single unit and/or click through each and every unit. Even then, some of this info is hard to track because KIA men disappear from the UI rather than turning red.

In order to address these issues, I suggest something like the following:

CMBN_edit.jpg

You can immediately see which units are in command and which are not by the red/green lines on the left. Units that are out of command show a red line, while units that are in command show a green line as well as the way that they're communicating (visually, via radio, etc). In addition to being able to see if a unit is in command or not, you can see who they are supposed to report to and the state of that commander (as well as whether or not there's another level of command above the immediate commander). It's much easier to visualize breaks in C2 structure this way compared to the little red dots that are currently used. Not to mention that the dots don't tell you WHY a unit is red (are they out of radio contact? Out of visual range? Dead?). The tree method I've mocked up gives you much more information.

You can immediately see which squads are Broken/Shaken (red outlines) or Rattled (yellow outlines). In addition, these states carry over to the icons in the main window so it's easier to see groupings of units in trouble states.

You can immediately see how many casualties each unit has taken and if any units have been wiped out. If the death of a unit affects C2 to units below, you can immediately see how many units are affected and which ones they are.

Additionally, you can immediately see any un-deployed mortars or machine guns. You can also see the status of vehicles and squads, even if those units are not on screen. And you can see if a vehicle or mortar is out of ammunition and, if so, which kind (HE, AT).

This information can ALL be seen without having to click on a single unit!

I've removed the UI from the bottom of the screen because it should be possible to remove much of the current UI since it would be redundant with what I've added. In addition, you wouldn't necessarily need the old UI elements most of the time, so they could be made to appear only when a unit is selected or it could be toggled on/off. Other UI elements could be removed or pared down as well. There's no need for the VCR controls during the command phase and no need for the movement controls during the replay phase. Combined with other changes like constant size unit icons (so that units further away have smaller icons while closer units have larger icons), color coding, shape changes, etc. you could potentially convey most everything the player needs with only a minimal, intuitive UI.

Now, this is just a quick mockup, so I haven't addressed everything. For instance, I think split squads really need their own unit icons so that they're easier to tell apart from whole squads and easier to keep track of what resources are where. Also, in addition to Broken/Rattled it would be nice to show Tiring/Exhausted and suppression level in some manner as well.

What do you guys think?

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Honestly I don't have that much concern with the current AI, partly because I actually enjoy keeping tabs on the state of my units very closely. Probably a bit nuts, but it is in that close detail that I think the game shines and I enjoy following it. That being said I like the indicators on the icons, though the UI panel on your left would only function if you can expand and close units by organization.

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I like it. Some additional items to consider:

- Vertical scroll bar

- Include icons for off-map arty/air

- Perhaps use "twisties" at leader level to collapse/expand formation elements. This control could also be leveraged for split squads and units that are being transported.

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I agree as well with Clark. The more information readily available at a glance, the better.

Since I have only been playing a few days, I am not sure if this feature is available and I cannot see it or not:

I would like to see a countdown timer for artillery calls. For example: I use an FO to call in some off-map artillery and it tells me 3 minutes until firing begins. I sometimes lose track of turns in the bigger games and would like to be able to check to see how much longer I must wait until the artillery begins. Is there a countdown timer I can check on the turns after calling in an arty strike? If not, I would find that a big help, especially when I have multiple like mortar/artillery units firing at different targets.

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You can immediately see which units are in command and which are not by the red/green lines on the left.

[raises hand]

I can't.

Only way I could tell which line was which colour was that the C2 icon was at the junction, and if I peer real close, I can see the line's green. Since 10% or more of this game's target audience has some form of colour deficient vision of some degree or kind, it's worth thinking about how shape and shade can be used to distinguish UI elements. If broken C2 was a broken red line, and intact C2 was a solid green line, it'd cater for the colour-gimped amongst us, and still provide the rapid identification that colour does for those of you who can distinguish it.

I do like the way you've put the icons to show the kind of C2, though I wonder how you would show voice and sight when it was present (which is the remainder of the problem that reviving the old concept of commandlines on screen can't address).

You can immediately see which squads are Broken/Shaken (red outlines) or Rattled (yellow outlines).

Any way you can think of to show Suppression/Pinned?

You can immediately see how many casualties each unit has taken and if any units have been wiped out.

Could you use green blob for unhurt, yellow blob for 'injured', yellow cross for wounded unmediced casualty, red cross for dead ammo donor and empty circle for 'tidied away'?

I think split squads really need their own unit icons...

An infantry icon could include one silhouette for each team in the squad.

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+1 to Clark's suggestion. It' also admirable that he provides a visual mock-up rather than merely complaining.

I find CMBN turns take a lot longer to do and seem to be more work because I am constantly having to do multiple clicks on multiple units to figure out who is where and in what condition they are in. Just finding out info re arty times takes several clicks on a spotter "menu", and when you add all those clicks together it takes a lot of time.

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The red and yellow outlines round the unit icons are good. I wouldn't want to have the left of the screen taken up with UI, because it reduces the panoramic view. Better to leave it on the bottom.

I'd like to see more information provided on the unit icons - like your red and yellow outlines, and maybe with a little ammunition box icon showing their supply status and a little visual/voice/radio one showing their C2 link. Toggle on and off to avoid clutter.

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Great! Thanks a lot for the idea, Clark, I hope it will be taken into account!

We should be able to choose between this bar, the other one at the bottom and both of them if we want to (I choose this last option, when it will be available... I like having detailed informations about my units, and the their rifles, etc.).

I think that icons in the new tab could show when a unit is under fire and when it is taking some casualties (avoiding loosing units without knowing...). By flashing on and off in blue, orange, red... for example.

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I like it. Some additional items to consider:

- Vertical scroll bar

That's there. It's dark colored to fit in with the rest of the GUI, but it's there.

- Include icons for off-map arty/air

This is one of those things that should only appear when it's needed. Rather than having buttons that are always on screen taking up space, they should only show when you have a unit selected that can actually call arty or air support.

- Perhaps use "twisties" at leader level to collapse/expand formation elements. This control could also be leveraged for split squads and units that are being transported.
That's something I wanted to put in my mockup, but it was getting late and I just wanted to have something finished enough to post before I went to bed. :)

If broken C2 was a broken red line, and intact C2 was a solid green line, it'd cater for the colour-gimped amongst us, and still provide the rapid identification that colour does for those of you who can distinguish it.
Excellent idea! I'm right there with you on using different shapes to distinguish different information. But, since this was just a quick mockup and everything in the current UI is made of rectangles, that's what I went with.

I do like the way you've put the icons to show the kind of C2, though I wonder how you would show voice and sight when it was present.

I honestly don't think it's necessary to show more than one type. Just show the lowest common denominator. If someone is out of audible range and in far-visual range, that information is useful enough to know that you're getting to the edges of what will be in command.

Any way you can think of to show Suppression/Pinned?
It should be relatively easy to show this using color and/or shape. Maybe pinned or suppressed units have "yield sign" shaped (upside down triangle) icons instead of circles and squares? I think it's more important that you know *something* bad is up with that unit. Once you know that, you're probably going to select the unit and figure out exactly what's going on anyway. The key here is to let the player know what's going on from the 10,000 foot level so they can decide who needs individual attention and who doesn't.

An infantry icon could include one silhouette for each team in the squad.
I started off trying that, but it just didn't work. A 12 man squad (or even 9 men) is just too much info to try to squeeze into that small of a space. So, I came up with the compromise I posted, which is to represent squads with a single weapon to signify what they are. Split AT teams could have a bazooka/panzerfaust. Scouts could have a scoped rifle. The key for me was to make it very apparent how many men are in each group, which groups are split squads, and how many casualties the group has taken. I don't need to know exactly which gun each soldier has. If it gets to the point that you need THAT much detail, you're going to select the squad and then you'll see all the nitty gritty detail.

The red and yellow outlines round the unit icons are good. I wouldn't want to have the left of the screen taken up with UI, because it reduces the panoramic view. Better to leave it on the bottom.
Because most people have widescreen monitors these days, I thought the UI made sense being on the side. It spoils the panorama a little, but is easier to navigate. Also, tree structures like this are almost always presented vertically, so it's second nature for people to navigate them. Putting it horizontally at the bottom wouldn't work as well.

We should be able to choose between this bar, the other one at the bottom and both of them if we want to (I choose this last option, when it will be available... I like having detailed informations about my units, and the their rifles, etc.).

The bar at the left wouldn't replace the bottom UI elements, it would just enhance them. If you click a unit you want to get all the detailed information about what weapons they have, how much ammo, any damage the vehicle has taken, etc. The key for me was to give the player a better overall view of the battlefield so that they know what's going on without dozens of clicks. Sometimes you need that detailed information, but you shouldn't have to check each and every unit to determine if you've lost a man, if you're low on ammo, etc. That's something the game should tell you without having to ask.

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I started off trying that, but it just didn't work. A 12 man squad (or even 9 men) is just too much info to try to squeeze into that small of a space.

I think you misunderstand me. I mean to suggest that a 3-team US squad have a 3-man silhouette, say partially overlapping, or in a triangle or somesuch, with a 2-team (US with a team split off or German) squad has a silhouette with 2 men represented, and a single team have just one figure shown on the icon.

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I think you misunderstand me. I mean to suggest that a 3-team US squad have a 3-man silhouette, say partially overlapping, or in a triangle or somesuch, with a 2-team (US with a team split off or German) squad has a silhouette with 2 men represented, and a single team have just one figure shown on the icon.

Ah, I understand now what you mean. I think the little red/yellow/green dots work pretty well when combined with some other signal that the group is a split squad (the "A" and "B" in my mockup). I think the silhouettes would look nice, but using the dots keeps things uniform across the board. Perhaps there would be a way to use both though?

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Ah, I understand now what you mean. I think the little red/yellow/green dots work pretty well when combined with some other signal that the group is a split squad (the "A" and "B" in my mockup). I think the silhouettes would look nice, but using the dots keeps things uniform across the board. Perhaps there would be a way to use both though?

I get what you mean. Dots in their Team boxes, maybe?

The silhouette-per-team thing, I was actually meaning for the floating icons in the playing field, rather than in the big info bar on the left.

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Honestly I don't have that much concern with the current AI, partly because I actually enjoy keeping tabs on the state of my units very closely. Probably a bit nuts, but it is in that close detail that I think the game shines and I enjoy following it. That being said I like the indicators on the icons, though the UI panel on your left would only function if you can expand and close units by organization.

This thread is one of the more interesting I've seen, although not becasue it deals with asking for more info with less clicks.

For full disclosure sake, I am a PBEM opponent of sburke and am generally in agreement with him on this point. We seem to be in the minority, so I thought I would discuss the opposing viewpoint in some detail.

I think what people ask for in terms of upgrades to the UI says alot about the different playstyles that are out there. I can see how everything listed in this thread would be very helpful for the RT player, when being asked to manage your forces and give orders must be done in a very short amount of time! Reflex decisions have to be made not only quickly, but with enough info to make those decisions good ones. I am solely a WEGO'er. I'm playing Die Ammis kommen right now, and for those of you who know it, you know it's a MASSIVE Scenario, with alot of force management. Even then, I sort of know where all my guys are, what they are doing and what the status is. When I receive a turn from my opponent, I thank god for the VCR controls, because I watch the turn more than once, almost always. I don't want to miss a 60mm morter screaming down on a position just because the camera was on the other side of the map and to far away to hear it. I jump back and forth, in the turn, to get to a particular time when I need to witness the action up close. It's probably a more methodical approach than some use, but it's a rare thing when I totally miss an event.

More to the point, I always have an intuitive sense of whats going on with any particular unit, even in a big battle. I sort of know generally, what a units morale is, ammo levels, what they can see and what they can't etc. I know this becasue if they were taking any actions at all, I just watched it on the video! I don't debate that the proposed changes would be helpful, I just would not need to use them that much. It's nice to know the status of an infantry unit over to the side and how many casualties they've taken. However, I'm more interested in how those casulaties were suffered, info that can only be aquired by watching what happened. I don't feel equipped to make good decisions for that unit until I know exactly what happened to get them to their current situation.

I'm not saying I don't like the changes that are being recommened to BFC, only that I don't think they would add alot of value, or information that we don't already know, assuming we watch the replay phase more than once, which I do. Thoughts?

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I'm not saying I don't like the changes that are being recommened to BFC, only that I don't think they would add alot of value, or information that we don't already know, assuming we watch the replay phase more than once, which I do. Thoughts?

Well, I obviously couldn't disagree with you more. :)

Like yourself, I play exclusively WeGo. Like you, I watch the replay multiple times each turn, watching things from different angles and perspectives and reliving my triumphs and defeats. Even so, I *hate* the fact that I can't easily see the information that's important to me without a huge amount of time and effort spent clicking individual units. Why should I keep track of each unit in my head when I'm sitting right at the computer - a device designed to do such tasks?

More to the point, I always have an intuitive sense of whats going on with any particular unit, even in a big battle. I sort of know generally, what a units morale is, ammo levels, what they can see and what they can't etc. I know this becasue if they were taking any actions at all, I just watched it on the video!

What about units who weren't directly involved in actions? Or what about units that were involved but you just didn't notice? Can you honestly say that you've never clicked on a unit only to find that it was out of grenades when only a few turns back you remembered them having plenty? Have you ever suddenly found yourself unable to control artillery because the radio man was shot when you weren't looking? Ever lose an important asset and not realize it until a turn too late? These are the kinds of issues I'm trying to alleviate.

It's nice to know the status of an infantry unit over to the side and how many casualties they've taken. However, I'm more interested in how those casulaties were suffered, info that can only be aquired by watching what happened.

Well, you need to know that X happened before you can research the cause of X. The interface on the left gives you an overview of your forces. If something important happens it's a lot more likely to jump out at you. For instance, let's say that one of my HQ commanders is killed. Currently, the only indication of that happening is the icon flashing orange a few times (assuming the unit is even on screen). In a frenzied battle it would be easy to miss such an occurrence, especially since the same exact indication is used when any casualty is taken. But with the overview UI I'm proposing you'd immediately see the effects of that commander's death as multiple units' C2 lines turn red and their contact indicators disappear. If you were playing real-time, you might not know HOW that man was killed, but you'd at least immediately know that he was and could take a closer look. When playing WeGo you could jump to that unit and rewind to see what happened. Even though it's a small thing (one man being killed), the consequences can be drastic. The chances that this would go unnoticed would be much less likely with a comprehensive overview UI.

I believe that it is very important to provide the user with a detailed overview of the current situation. Sure, a person can do this all mentally and step through each and every unit by hand. In fact, that's what we all have to do right now because there's no other option. But do you really think the current solution works well for most people? I certainly don't, and everyone I personally know that plays this game feels the same way. The UI really needs to do a better job at conveying information to the player than it currently does.

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What a superb suggestion, especially for those of us whose ability to retain large, complex amounts of information has, shall we say, deteriorated due to, must we say, age.

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I definitely agree with the base idea of what you're proposing; more information on the screen. In the same vein as other, in a WeGo PBEM game i managed to get an entire reinforced platoon across an open 100 yards into cover with the exception of one man who was of course the bazooka man. much discussion ensued on who got to run out and grab it...

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Hello:

What I think would be good is for Battlefront to provide 2 interfaces and we choose which option we have running. Option A could be the current one (even though Steve said it would change I am not sure how much) and Option B would be something like Clark's suggestion.

Seems there are different player preferences in terms of how people want data displayed or how they collect/see the data. Instead of trying to satisfy everyone with one UI, why not have 2 variations?

I am sure some will say that then there will be a need for a 3rd option, etc. But a choice of A and B above would probably satisfy most!?

Gerry

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